Sunday, August 2, 2015

Emergency Responders More Susceptible to PTSD

From 2008 to 2010 I took just about every training offered on Crisis Intervention available in Florida. I was certified as a Chaplain in 2008 by the IFOC. I focused on taking care of first responders since they were like most of the veterans I had experience with. Then it was more training including Disaster and Extreme Event Preparedness.

When I read this and the numbers, I remembered the training and what we knew back then. So why wasn't this training pushed for every group of first responders so they could find the support they needed in time to save their lives?
Fire Fighter Quarterly: Bringing PTSD Out of the Shadows
(The following article appeared in the Winter 2015 edition of the IAFF Fire Fighter Quarterly)
In just an 18-month period from 2008-09, Chicago Local 2 lost seven members to suicide. In 2010, four members of Phoenix, AZ Local 493 took their own lives.

Philadelphia, PA Local 22 has lost at least one member to suicide every year over the past five years. While each situation was different, Local 22 President Joe Schulle believes that work policies played a role.

A 20-year veteran firefighter at an urban fire department, John Smith had responded to every kind of imaginable — and unimaginable — emergency incident over the course of his career.

As a fire fighter, Smith sees people on their worst days, and the incidents he responds to on a daily basis can be truly horrific.

But it wasn’t until he saw a brother fall through the floor of a burning home to his death that the trauma stayed with him, and it seemed it would never get out of his mind. At the most unexpected times, he would relive the tragedy or hear his brother call for help. Every call became a stressful experience, even the most routine.

Smith thought he just needed time to recover, but the anxiety only escalated. Even stepping foot in the firehouse or completing routine tasks became daunting.

But he never told anyone about what he was experiencing. One day, a crew mate took him aside and said, “I think I know what you’re going through, and I think I can help.”

While this is a fictional account, it depicts an all-too-common behavioral health issue in the fire service.

Emergency responders are more susceptible to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) because of the nature of the profession, coupled with the personal demands and challenges fire fighters and paramedics face.

“IAFF members respond to any number of incredible events, many of them tragic,” says General President Harold Schaitberger. “PTSD is a terrible condition that affects fire fighters and paramedics at double the rate of the general population, and we need a better way to deal with it.”
“People with PTSD are six times more likely to attempt suicide compared to demographically matched controls,” says Dr. Suzy Gulliver, who has participated in a number of studies on PTSD, and currently is founding director and chief of the Warriors Research Institute (WRI), which engages in multidisciplinary studies on the traumatic stress experienced by both soldiers and first responders.
Unfortunately, in many departments, even if the stigma is reduced, there are no programs in place for addressing behavioral health issues. Others may offer employee assistance programs (EAPs) but these are simply a referral line to community services.

“We need to do a better job of recognizing the signs and symptoms and providing the tools to help address it,” says Schaitberger. “Behavioral health services need to be embedded in all fire departments.”
read more here

Israel reported that 9 out of 10 firemen suffer from symptoms of psychological trauma, according to an expert who spoke before a session of the Knesset Labor, Social Welfare and Health Committee

Canada lost 23 firefighters to suicide in the first part of 2014

" Beyond The Call " Full Length PTSD Training Documentary
London Professional Fire Fighters Association

UPDATE from Australia
Vets, paramedics among jobs with highest suicide rates
AUGUST 02, 2015

VETERINARIANS, paramedics, security guards, truck drivers and engineers share some of the state’s deadliest jobs a new report has found.
One of the starkest contrasts is among emergency workers, with Victoria’s paramedics having an average annual suicide rate of 35.6 per 100,000 workers - more than three-and-a-half times higher than police (10 per 100,000), and fire fighters and other emergency workers (10.5).

Only vets recorded a higher suicide rate at 38.2 per 100,000. And in findings that will surprise many, hairdressers (11.2), real estate agents (13.4) and engineers (21) were all found to have higher rates of suicide than police, fire fighters and other non-paramedic emergency workers.

Security guards (34.6) and truck drivers (23.3) are also professions that appear to need greater support.
read more here

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